NEW ROADS, LA (WAFB) - People who live near the railroad tracks in the City of New Roads want trains to slow down. The federal agency that regulates train speed limits gave conductors approval to more than double their speed recently. Some Pointe Coupee Parish leaders believe it happened way too fast, and now they are trying to reverse that move.
People who live near the railroad tracks in New Roads are used to hearing trains. Some of them, like Walter Parker, watch them ride the rails from their front porches. But lately, they report, the trains are flying through.
"Lately, I thought it was a new, young person driving or whatever, but they go too fast through here with that, way too fast," said Parker.
Kansas City Southern Railway (KCS) announced last month it would be gradually increasing the speed limit of its trains through New Roads from 20 mph to 49 mph. That worries Shelia Martin, who lives near the tracks and cares for her young grandchildren during the week.
"They should slow the speed down a little if they can and they should put more crossings and more flashing lights," said Martin.
A spokesperson with KCS says the Federal Railroad Administration allowed the speed increase because of a $3 million track improvement project, which includes crossing signal installation, street closures, and infrastructure improvements.
But Point Coupee Parish Police Juror Cornell Dukes says the problem is that the enhancements aren't done yet. "Speed and safety go together. Until fittings are put all along here, Kansas [KCS] should not be allowed to come through our small community," said Dukes.
Dukes says he is drafting a letter to U.S. senators, congressmen, President Donald Trump, and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards urging them to step in and make the trains slow down until the improvements are made.
"They are putting profit over people and that's my main concern. They are getting the max benefit when we are being left vulnerable to a huge piece of metal coming through our community," said Dukes.
New Roads Mayor Robert Myer says while the city does not have control over the trains' speed limit, leaders are working with DOTD to help make railroad crossings safer.
"We are 100 percent in sharing the concerns of city, and at the same time, we realize we are limited in anything we can do other than try to make it as safe as possible," said Myer.
Until those enhancements are in place, residents say they will continue to fear for their safety. "I'm shaking in my chair. It's definitely dangerous," said Parker.
The state says crossing safety projects are planned, but it's up to the railroad and the city to approve them. City leaders say those safety projects should be complete in a year.